A drone start-up run by University of Nevada, Reno students won this year’s Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition.
The winner, Nevada Dynamics, is a maker of a battery recharging system for unmanned autonomous systems designed to extend the range of small commercial drones, an increasingly important area as more and more small commercial drones take flight. The fledgling business was one of four finalists competing for the $50,000 prize awarded by UNR’s College of Business from a $1 million grant given by alumnus Rick Sontag in 2011.
About 35 teams entered the competition and were mentored, including by Summit Ventures Mentoring Service, a free community service. Twenty-one teams made it through the process and participated in four Saturday workshops, said David Croasdell, the Charles and Ruth Hopping Professor of Entrepreneurship and the chairman of the Department of Information Systems at UNR and the competition’s director.
The teams presented written business plans and finalists made “Shark Tank” 10-minute oral presentations, followed by 20 minutes of questions from a panel of six judges, said Croasdell. “We wanted them to present as if it were a panel of venture capitalists looking to invest,” said Croasdell. The projects and presentations were evaluated based on 10 criteria, including management, marketing analysis and sales strategy. The four finalists were Nevada Dynamics; Navatar, developer of a free indoor navigation system application for blind students, which won the $5,000 second-place prize; Burn Ready, a Web-based event supply company; and Adaption, a Bluetooth low-energy technology monitoring activity in and outside of the home.
Six more teams were recognized as a second-tier of near finalists, highlighting how competitive the event has become, said Croasdell.